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ACT seeks co-funding partner for Wysa's Hindi Version of Mental Health App

Its English mental health app has served approximately 528,000 people in India, primarily through large multinational employers and direct-to-consumer downloads

ACT seeks co-funding partner for Wysa's Hindi Version of Mental Health App

Vinita Bhatia

POSTED ON October 12, 2022 10:28 PM

Wysa, an AI-based digital companion for behavioural health, announced plans for a Hindi language mental health app, which will be accessible through WhatsApp. ACT, a non-profit venture philanthropy platform, is supporting the initiative and is seeking a co-funding partner to propel the development further. The pilot is expected to commence in early 2023. 

Neetha Joy, director-healthcare at ACT said, "14 per cent of our population suffers from mental health disorders and the pandemic exacerbating the lack of access to quality care. We need innovative solutions to address this chasm as there aren't enough trained care providers to meet this latent demand."

14 per cent of India's population is estimated to be suffering from mental disorders. Around $1 trillion is expected to be lost due to mental health conditions in the country between 2012 and 2030. Moreover, 70 per cent of the country's public associate mental health with 'stigma'.

The first iteration of the Hindi app will guide users through cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) exercises via text with a mobile phone-based conversational agent to help users manage depression and anxiety. It will guide users who show moderate to severe symptoms towards a clinical program and wellness tools to others. 

As an AI-based app, Wysa works with employers and healthcare providers to overcome the stigma and privacy concerns that often prevent people from seeking help for their mental health. Its English mental health app has served approximately 528,000 people in India, primarily through large multinational employers and direct-to-consumer downloads. 

The lack of Hindi language support remains a barrier to reaching diverse socio-economic groups and demographics. Offering an app in Hindi can reduce this access barrier, as many in the country are conversant in the language. It brings a proven and tangible mechanism to increase communication and access for the vast majority of communities in India.

Besides overcoming the language barrier, Wysa's AI therapy conversational agent will be available through WhatsApp, which has over 487 million users in India. This will ensure high user engagement for therapy dialogue since much of the population relies on it for regular communication.

According to Deloitte's Life Sciences in Healthcare report, approximately 0.75 psychiatrists are available to 1,00,000 people in India compared to 30 in the US. Also, less than 0.1 per cent was allocated to mental health in the health budget over the last five years in India versus approximately 5 per cent in developed countries.

"In our ambition to help 50 million users by 2025, we must go beyond literacy and language barriers to create access to mental health support for all. We have a long way to go in overcoming mental health stigma in India. Still, this Hindi version of our universally popular app, delivered through WhatsApp, is a great place to start," said Jo Aggarwal, CEO and co-founder at Wysa.

"A large part of the population in India primarily speaks in Hindi, which poses a huge language barrier for availing mental health support in addition to the stigma. Wysa in Hindi can reach not just the metro cities but also tier 2 and 3 cities where mental health issues are more prominent and less talked about. With the simplicity of this app and science-backed techniques such as CBT, it is hugely beneficial for Hindi speakers to get guidance in their native language. In my many years of working in the mental health field, I have never seen such an initiative and I am positive that it will benefit a lot of people," noted Dr Roma Kumar, Clinical Psychologist and Senior Consultant at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi.

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